Aurora Magazine

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In conversation with Junaid Iqbal, CEO, Careem Pakistan

Updated Apr 18, 2017 09:24am
The CEO of Careem Pakistan talks about how Careem plans to make further inroads into the Pakistani market.

Co-founded by a Pakistani, Mudassir Sheikha, and Magnus Olsson, Founder and MD, Careem began operations in the UAE in 2012. Talha bin Hamid speaks to Junaid Iqbal, CEO, Careem Pakistan, to find more about what Careem’s game plan is as far as making further inroads into the Pakistani market is concerned.

TALHA BIN HAMID: When did Careem decide to enter the Pakistani market?
Careem started toying with the idea of launching in Pakistan in early 2015, and various pilots were run that year. We began a test launch in October 2015 when I joined Careem, and we launched in March 2016.

TBH: Which factors prompted Careem’s entry into Pakistan?
Several reasons; the first is the fact that Pakistan is severely underserviced when it comes to public transport and establishing Careem in Pakistan was a great way to create jobs. Secondly, our technology is ‘Made In Pakistan’, so it is only fair that our people should benefit from it. However, it is important to remember that Careem is a platform, not a service provider; ride hailers and providers connect with each other using our technology, but that does not make us a transport company.

TBH: In late January, the Punjab Government’s Provincial Transport Authority declared that ride-hailing services such as Careem were operating outside regulatory boundaries in Lahore. How easy it was to work with the regulatory agencies to resolve the issues?
In almost every country, regulatory bodies have caused the growth of businesses such as ours to lag initially, and the debate around the world has focused on the distinction between the platform and the service provider. Close to 100 countries are now in the process of formulating new regulations in this regard and close to 20 have already done so; Pakistan was no different in that sense because the regulatory bodies in Pakistan considered us to be a car rental company, which we are not; our argument was simple: if we offer a doctors-on-demand service, would that make us a hospital? Of course not. The good news is that we are now engaged with all the provinces in a consultative process aimed at developing new laws specific to an online platform like ours, and we are very excited about working with our Government. In the long run, these laws will help other online platforms, such as AirBnB if and when they come to Pakistan. However, it does mean that when new laws come into play, platforms such as ours will have to meet the requirements set by the regulator.

TBH: How does Careem differentiate itself from Uber and other competing services?
Firstly, we provide multiple ways of booking a car: one the phone, through the web and via our app. Secondly, we have three options as far as booking a ride is concerned: now, later and repeat. Most of our competitors only provide the ‘now’ option. Thirdly, we have several types of cars, which cater to various income segments: Go, Go+ and Business; whereas our competitors only have one. Fourthly, we have a mobile wallet that our customers can top up with cash. Most importantly, the Pathfinder Group headed by Ikram Sehgal, runs very comprehensive background checks on our captains. No other company does anything even remotely close.

TBH: What are the processes in terms of recruiting Careem’s captains and conducting the necessary background?
It is a five-step process: sign up, attend our training session, pass our driving test, get your car’s fitness certificate from CarSure and then submit your paperwork for a background check. Our background checks are very comprehensive; we check our drivers’ NIC with NADRA and their driving license from the relevant authority. After that, a verification officer visits and verifies the prospective driver’s home, records its exact geographic location, and conducts a reputation check in the neighbourhood. He also gets a police certificate from the neighbourhood. If even one of these items is not verified, the person cannot be a captain on our platform.

"Being a Careem captain involves a five-step process: sign up, attend our training session, pass our driving test, get your car’s fitness certificate from CarSure and then submit your paperwork for a background check."

TBH: What factors are considered when Careem collaborates with services and events such as FindMyDoctor and Karachi Eat Festival?
We feel that technology is a progressive force and it is our responsibility to use our platform to facilitate other initiatives aimed at enriching our community. That is why we take pride in working with such partners because we feel that they are playing their part in making Pakistan a better place.

TBH: Given the local flavour of Careem’s of promotions, such as the Shadi Care and the Rickshaw Service, are these ideas generated locally or at your headquarters in the UAE?
Careem is a hyperlocal company, and ideas are generated and executed on a city-to city-level. Each city has to find ways of integrating itself in the community and our marketing teams come up with their own set of ideas.

TBH: What are Careem Pakistan’s short-term objectives in Pakistan?
By 2020, our aim is to create one million job opportunities, attract $10 billion in terms of investment in the public transport infrastructure, and have a presence in an all urban and sub-urban cities.

TBH: What are the main challenges Careem faces?
Finding good talent, including captains, and ensuring the processes involved in conducting background checks are watertight.

Note: This interview was conducted on February 12.


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Comments (17)

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MUHAMMAD FAHEEM KHAN Apr 18, 2017 01:06pm

Careem should penetrate into other markets as well including CPEC. They can give Chinese transportation run for their money.

Fatima Apr 18, 2017 01:18pm

Make a policy for the stupid and badtameez drivers you have hired too. Also, complaint system should be revised and stop with that annoying tape that customers have to listen to when they call the helpline for complaints. Also, all your policies are in favor of your drivers. Out of 50 drivers, 40 drivers are super badtamiz and lack morals and manners.

Parvez Apr 18, 2017 01:22pm

A step in the right direction.......bravo

A. Khan Apr 18, 2017 01:35pm

Used Careem several times during visits to Pakistan. Great service.

One word of advice : captains should be told not to smoke in their vehicles at any time as the smell of cigarette smoke is nauseating to non-smokers. Of course, the same applies to passengers as well.

waleed fakhar Apr 18, 2017 01:43pm

This is a great step..our rulers are good for nothing...let the country on be contract to others.

Yaa Apr 18, 2017 02:40pm

Drivers, cleaners, Puncture, and flesh trade along cpec. Great to hear

Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Apr 18, 2017 02:49pm

Let's wait and see if he can really match his words with solid and tangible on the ground actions?

Sameer Apr 18, 2017 04:09pm

Careem is making very strong inroads...I just saw their cars( brand new ones too) charging rs.350 for 21Kilometres!!! How ever I have to disagree that driver aptitude and car fitness are a requirement. Any company that wants penetration will waiver legal requirements to a great extent e.g: when cell phone penetration required companies to give away sims for free.

Balaji Apr 18, 2017 05:06pm

There's going to be lot of Chinese engineers operating in Pakistan and those taxis can't drive themselves. Of course it is very much possible.

flipflop Apr 19, 2017 05:59am

Any idea if drivers pay taxes on the money they make ? Since its a service it must be taxes and almost in every country where Uber and businesses exist; drivers pay taxes. Can anyone confirm this ?

rafaya sufi Apr 19, 2017 11:03pm

wonderful. 1 million drivers. let's not create real jobs but get more cars and drivers on the road.

Syed Kamal Apr 21, 2017 05:48pm

Good talk waiting for reality. Do not identify your cars as "Creem" that will make your cars obvious targets of police extortion and corruption.

Muhammad rafiq Apr 27, 2017 08:17am

Mostly people not using smart phone. Plz make a policy for these people having land line.

Sher afgun May 10, 2017 01:50am

@A. Khan nice idea all captains should be non smokers .

Sher afgun May 10, 2017 01:53am

All captains should be non smokers and avoid to used mobile during driving .

Sher afgun May 10, 2017 01:55am

@A. Khan

Ziaulhassan May 10, 2017 11:11pm

Sir ap ki company ma cars lagni h kia procedure h.inform me. 03005951359.wats app same num Pesh.islamabad both cities ma agr lagani h..